After spending three decades murdering every plant I touched, I was astonished to find myself in lockdown with a functioning edible garden.
Perhaps isolation taught me patience. Perhaps the pandemic made me more careful. It certainly helped that there were already veggies growing in raised garden beds when we moved in: from them I learned that part of gardening is watching plants die (some died! it was OK!), and from that I gained the confidence to plant more.
My first tip is to start simple. Basil, dill, parsley, chilli, snow peas, lemon thyme, strawberries and mint are all hardy if you have good soil (did you know you can simply go out and buy an entire bag of worms? And then just chuck them in?), enough sun and remember to water each day. I keep my herbs and small vegetables in balcony boxes that hang above the garden beds, which grow zucchini, beans and tomatoes I can take little credit for; the beds were already irrigated.
My second tip is to keep it simple by way of cheap accoutrements that remove both guesswork and legwork. I have a big rubber tub ($4, Bunnings) collecting rain (free, La Niña). I have a soil meter ($17) that measures moisture, pH and light (a magical tool that tells you when to water and has kept my indoor plants alive as well). I plant seeds in a seedling box ($12) first, which keeps the weather off until they’re big enough to be moved. Once set up in their balcony boxes ($11), I scatter a smorgasbord of year-round flowers around them to lure bees that will pollinate the plants. Bees: also free!
It is obscene how much joy this all brings me – and it takes around five minutes each day to tend. I run out every morning now with my dumb cute watering can ($20) to water everyone, trim off the dead leaves (it helps the plant focus on the living ones) and see if anything has happened. A new strawberry! A different flower! A bee! Look at this BEE! I yell all the developments at my bored partner and show him the tiny yield I have gathered in a tiny basket (so it looks bigger). Sometimes I wear a hat while I’m doing it, like some lady in a boring BBC show. It’s so much easier than I thought! And incredibly dull. I love it.